It was June 2000 when our family doctor uttered the words that changed the course of our lives … “Mr. and Mrs. Carpenter your son Reese has autism.” Those words started a journey for my wife and I. Nineteen years later, we have learned from family, educators, and therapists how to help our son be the best “Reese” he can be. So when I had a chance to pay it forward, I took it.

After 38 years with a large South Florida company, I retired and started a non-profit called Children’s Health And Mentor Program (aka CHAMP).  Our mission is simple. Provide FREE recreational activities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

CHAMP serves individuals with Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy to name a few. Through these recreational activities CHAMP will help them improve their social skills and help them reach their full potential up to and including employment. Where appropriate, CHAMP’s vision is to replace a disability check with a paycheck.

CHAMP welcomes those with any intellectual disability, or should I say “different ability.” The different ability I know the most about is Autism. So let’s talk about that for a minute.  Today, one in 58 children will be diagnosed with autism and it used to be around one in 150 when Reese was born. Autism is becoming more prevalent and therefore having larger impacts our community both now and in the future.

Now that we have covered what we want to do, let’s talk about what’s been done to date. Since its inception in March 2019, CHAMP has had 7 events. Teaching about flying drones, Bowling with Special Olympians, a Hawaiian themed dance, Paddleboarding, a croquet lesson, a fishing trip on the Intracoastal and a trip to Miami on the Brightline Train to visit the Science Museum were the events for 2019.

The one I feel most passionate about is The Brightline Train Trip to Miami to see the Frost Science Museum on Saturday October 12, 2019.

CHAMP took 20 youth/young adults, 25 parents/caregivers as chaperones, traveled on the Brightline Railway and met 7 sponsor (VIVINT) employee volunteers at the Miami Brightline Station. 52 of us then took a short walk to the Miami Metro People Mover and took some fun group photos in front of the Frost Science Museum.

The group of 52 then had lunch and then visited the planetarium show and the multiple levels of aquariums. All these activities were very visible and enjoyable by all. What wasn’t visible is that there were a variety of teachable moments that occurred and the group didn’t realize they were learning. Learning while having fun is the hallmark of CHAMP’s program.

Finally, I invite you to visit our website at WWW.MYYCHAMP.COM to reinforce who we are and what we do with the posted pictures and associated descriptions in the EVENT PICTURES section. If you know of a friend or family member that could benefit from FREE recreational activities for those with intellectual disabilities, please pass this article and the website on.

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